Madison, West Side announce plans for face-to-face learning in the fall

At least two East Idaho school districts will reopen with face-to-face instruction this fall.

In-person classes will resume on Aug. 26 in Rexburg’s Madison School District, Superintendent Geoff Thomas announced last week. The Dayton-based West Side School District will make a similar move on Aug. 20, according to a YouTube video on the district’s webpage.

Both districts stressed a need to get kids back in the classroom following an abrupt shift to remote learning this spring.

“Online learning as the primary method is not what is best for our students,” Barzee told Idaho Education News.

Thomas said the shift to online instruction, aimed at curbing the coronavirus’s spread, was particularly straining for students with special needs — a reality dozens of Idaho parents lamented last month.

Yet while the announcements reflect two rural districts’ desires to bring kids back, they also provide a glimpse into how things will shake out differently from district to district in the coming months. With confirmed cases of the virus spiking in various parts of the state and decisions about how to return to school left in the hands of local leaders, districts and charters across Idaho are still debating what to do.

The state’s two largest districts have already shared their plans. With coronavirus spreading faster than ever in certain parts of the Treasure Valley, the Boise and West Ada districts say they’ll give students a choice between learning remotely or in-person, with various health guidelines in place for kids who show up at school. (Health officials recently put Ada County back into phase three of Idaho’s coronavirus guidelines, prohibiting gatherings of 50 or more and shutting down bars that had reopened.)

Click here for West Ada’s latest back-to-school update and here for Boise’s.

Coronavirus isn’t as prevalent in Madison County and West Side’s Franklin County, where officials have identified 25 and 23 confirmed cases, respectively. Still, students will be asked to follow various health guidelines when they return in the fall.

West Side will structure hand-washing times, implement disinfecting protocol, require social distancing “when reasonable,” and provide “accommodations for vulnerable staff and employees,” Barzee said. Thomas outlined some similar requirements in his statement about reopening.

Despite the release of some plans for moving forward — and no telling how cases will spread in the coming months — the superintendents stressed that things could still change.

“Ultimately, we recognize and respect that the decision and responsibility to send your children to school remains with you the parent or care giver,” Thomas told patrons.

Devin Bodkin

About Devin Bodkin

Reporter Devin Bodkin covers education issues in East Idaho. He is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He is a 2019 Solutions Journalism Network fellow and the Idaho Press Club's 2019 print reporter of the year. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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